HARD TO REPLACE
Cecil Shorts will be missed in the regular-season finale.
That much is obvious, considering the second-year wide receiver was the Jaguars' most consistent big-play threat this season – and maybe the best offensive player.
But with Shorts having been placed on injured reserve, the bigger question for Sunday is who will take his place in the lineup. The answer, according to Head Coach Mike Mularkey, is many, many players – and none of them particularly well-known.
"A number of them are going to be out there, but it will be hard to replace what Cecil's brought to our team this year with his big plays and his threat of stretching the field," Mularkey said as the Jaguars (2-13) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (5-10) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Mularkey said wide receivers such as Toney Clemons, Mike Brown and Jordan Shipley could play a role with Justin Blackmon starting at one receiver, and also mentioned rookie Jerrell Jackson as a possibility. Jackson was activated from the practice squad Monday.
Clemons, Brown, Shipley and Jackson all have been added to the roster since mid-November.
"It will be hard," Mularkey said. "We're going to have some young guys who are going to have to make some plays. For some, it will be one of the few times they've gotten a chance to play and have a ball thrown to them in the NFL."
The Jaguars placed Shorts on injured reserve Monday with a second concussion in three weeks. He finished the season with 979 yards receiving, 21 yards shy of becoming the first Jaguars player since Jimmy Smith in 2005 to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed practice Wednesday, one of five active players held out of the first day of full preparations for Tennessee.
Jones-Drew, who has missed the last nine games with a foot sprain, ran Wednesday morning, and though he ran better than he had since sustaining the injury October 17 at Oakland, Mularkey said the three-time Pro Bowl selection remained questionable for Sunday.
Guard Uche Nwaneri, who sustained a concussion Sunday against New England, also was held out of practice Wednesday, as was fullback Greg Jones (thigh), linebacker Julian Stanford (hip) and center Brad Meester (foot). Meester routinely has been held out Wednesdays this season.
Nwaneri failed a baseline concussion test Wednesday and will take another Friday.
"He's not ruled out as of yet," Mularkey said.
Cornerback Aaron Ross (calf), cornerback Rashean Mathis (calf), linebacker Paul Posluszny (groin) and linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) practiced limited Wednesday, with defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (calf) practicing full.
"I was coaching tight ends for the Dolphins when we were 1-15 (in 2007). I can tell you it was a totally different atmosphere than it is here. Starting Monday through Sunday, it was different. The chances of winning down there were not good on Sundays when we stepped on the field – as they are here. No. 1, it's the way these guys have come into work trying to prep and get ready for the games – even after tough losses. It's a hard thing mentally, but these guys have responded. I'm not proud about the losses, but one thing that's shown is we're closer than most think against anybody."
QB CHAD HENNE SAYS
"I think there has been great progress overall. I think we're getting some things done on offense – more yards, getting the passing attack going – but there's still a lot of improvement. We've got a lot of young guys. We've got a lot of injured guys that are stepping in for us to take over. Overall guys are still very resilient, still playing hard and coming out with the right attitude."
LB PAUL POSLUSZNY SAYS
"Even though we were in tough spots at times, the guys always played hard – played hard and stuck together to the end. You never saw us give up. You never saw us quit in a game. We obviously had a hard time winning, but we fought hard regardless of the situation."
A VOTE FOR THE BANGER
The NFL will announce the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and although few Jaguars players likely will receive consideration, Mularkey said rookie punter Bryan Anger would be a deserving candidate. Anger enters the final week of the season with a 47.9-yard average on 86 punts and a 42.4-yard net average, each of which would be NFL rookie records. "He's been impressive," Mularkey said. "I think he'd have a chance. He's done basically what we drafted him to do – changed field position, pinned opponents back, gotten us out of bad field position."
Montell Owens may have a bigger role in the offense moving forward, and Mularkey said the seven-year veteran absolutely earned it. Owens, a two-time Pro Bowl selection on special teams, has started the last three games at running back. In his first three career starts at the position, Owens has rushed 35 times for 180 yards and a touchdown, averaging at least four yards a carry in each game. "He definitely is in the depth chart now with the running backs," Mularkey said. "If he's not the feature guy, he can resume that role (on special teams), but he would play a bigger role running the ball now that we've had a chance to see him do that." Mularkey said Owens has done a good job in pass protection. "His role can be more next year," Mularkey said. "Wherever you line him up, he's pretty darned good – very productive."
The Jaguars will practice Thursday and Friday as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.